Quill & Quire
Every summer for the past 10 years, Conni Massing and a gaggle of her theatre friends have embarked on raucous road trips throughout their home province of Alberta. Road Tripping: On the Move with the Buffalo Gals (not all of whom are gals, by the way) is Massing’s funny, compelling, and educational account of these trips. Massing’s book may even inspire a bit of envy on the part of her readers. How can people have so much fun, one wonders, with so little? How do people make a pit stop for beef jerky an adventure?
Some of the trips follow themes, such as the Intolerance Tour (which includes a visit to the high school where James Keegstra taught that the Holocaust never happened) and the World’s Biggest (which includes a visit to a vaguely obscene giant perogy). But the trips aren’t all so focused: one takes the Gals to a museum that features 41 dioramas of stuffed gophers depicting small-town Alberta life. Much hilarity ensues.
Massing, an established playwright and screenwriter, has received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, and has been recognized by the Betty Mitchell Theatre Awards and the Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Theatre Awards. Her political bent is to the left and she is at home in the city, surrounded by artsy types. The Gals often appear like fish out of water in rural and small-town Alberta, but Massing does not poke fun at Albertans and their twin religions of Conservatism and beef. Instead, she represents Alberta honestly and without derision.
Even when getting a really good chuckle out of a situation, her genuine love for the people and places of Alberta is evident. The Gals attend an outdoor Passion Play in the Badlands, and none of them mock the religiosity of the event. Each pokey little town is complimented and every nutty enterprise is enjoyed in the spirit in which it was intended. How nutty are the enterprises? There is a UFO landing pad in the town of Vulcan and a creationism museum depicting a child cavorting with a dinosaur.
When the Gals find themselves accidentally crossing a provincial border, they do indulge in a little daydreaming about what life would be like in arts-friendlier Saskatchewan. But even though Massing may sometimes feel like a stranger in a strange land, Road Tripping, her love letter to her home province, is both funny and inspiring.
A humour-fuelled travelogue. —Westworld
Albertans or non-Albertans who read this travel memoir will learn something they never knew about the province, feel a little envious toward the Buffalo Gals . . . and, quite possibly, be left with a strange craving for beef jerky. —Canadian Geographic
Conni Massing, an award-winning Edmonton playwright who has fearlessly launched herself into non-fiction with a travel memoir. —The Edmonton Journal
Roadtripping, [Massing's] love letter to her home province, is both funny and inspiring. —Quill & Quire
Steven Beattie, reviews editor of . . . Quill & Quire, notes that books about the road life tend to be a natural fit for travellers. Roadtripping in included on Beattie's list of suggestions.—Special to the Globe & Mail